A Caltech Library Service

Fluvial features on Titan: Insights from morphology and modeling

Burr, Devon M. and Perron, J. Taylor and Lamb, Michael P. and Irwin, Rossman P., III and Collins, Geoffrey C. and Howard, Alan D. and Sklar, Leonard S. and Moore, Jeffrey M. and Ádámkovics, Máté and Baker, Victor R. and Drummond, Sarah A. and Black, Benjamin A. (2013) Fluvial features on Titan: Insights from morphology and modeling. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 125 (3-4). pp. 299-321. ISSN 0016-7606. doi:10.1130/B30612.1.

Full text is not posted in this repository. Consult Related URLs below.

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Fluvial features on Titan have been identified in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data taken during spacecraft flybys by the Cassini Titan Radar Mapper (RADAR) and in Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) images taken during descent of the Huygens probe to the surface. Interpretations using terrestrial analogs and process mechanics extend our perspective on fluvial geomorphology to another world and offer insight into their formative processes. At the landscape scale, the varied morphologies of Titan’s fluvial networks imply a variety of mechanical controls, including structural influence, on channelized flows. At the reach scale, the various morphologies of individual fluvial features, implying a broad range of fluvial processes, suggest that (paleo-)flows did not occupy the entire observed width of the features. DISR images provide a spatially limited view of uplands dissected by valley networks, also likely formed by overland flows, which are not visible in lower-resolution SAR data. This high-resolution snapshot suggests that some fluvial features observed in SAR data may be river valleys rather than channels, and that uplands elsewhere on Titan may also have fine-scale fluvial dissection that is not resolved in SAR data. Radar-bright terrain with crenulated bright and dark bands is hypothesized here to be a signature of fine-scale fluvial dissection. Fluvial deposition is inferred to occur in braided channels, in (paleo)lake basins, and on SAR-dark plains, and DISR images at the surface indicate the presence of fluvial sediment. Flow sufficient to move sediment is inferred from observations and modeling of atmospheric processes, which support the inference from surface morphology of precipitation-fed fluvial processes. With material properties appropriate for Titan, terrestrial hydraulic equations are applicable to flow on Titan for fully turbulent flow and rough boundaries. For low-Reynolds-number flow over smooth boundaries, however, knowledge of fluid kinematic viscosity is necessary. Sediment movement and bed form development should occur at lower bed shear stress on Titan than on Earth. Scaling bedrock erosion, however, is hampered by uncertainties regarding Titan material properties. Overall, observations of Titan point to a world pervasively influenced by fluvial processes, for which appropriate terrestrial analogs and formulations may provide insight.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle
Lamb, Michael P.0000-0002-5701-0504
Additional Information:© 2013 Geological Society of America. Manuscript Received 23 September 2011. Revised Manuscript Received 18 July 2012. Manuscript Accepted 28 July 2012. First published online November 21, 2012. Science Editor: Christian Koeberl. Support for Burr, Irwin, Perron, Drummond, and Black was provided by a Cassini Data Analysis Program grant to Burr. Collins and Sklar were supported by an Outer Planets Research Program grant to Collins. Moore and Howard were supported by an Outer Planets Research Program grant to Moore. We acknowledge support from the University of Tennessee Exhibit, Performance, and Publication Expense Fund. We thank Tom Farr for processing the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images in Figure 4. We gratefully acknowledge Trent Hare for his Titan ArcGIS project and Randy Kirk and Alex Hayes for helpful information. We thank the editors for their assistance in helping us shape this publication appropriately, and Bob Craddock, Ralph Lorenz, and an anonymous reviewer for providing useful comments. Most of all, we thank the Cassini and Huygens spacecraft mission teams for their successful efforts to produce the data used in this manuscript.
Group:UNSPECIFIED, UNSPECIFIED, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
Funding AgencyGrant Number
University of TennesseeUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:3-4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130617-091350473
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Devon M. Burr, J. Taylor Perron, Michael P. Lamb, Rossman P. Irwin III, Geoffrey C. Collins, Alan D. Howard, Leonard S. Sklar, Jeffrey M. Moore, Máté Ádámkovics, Victor R. Baker, Sarah A. Drummond, and Benjamin A. Black Fluvial features on Titan: Insights from morphology and modeling Geological Society of America Bulletin, March 2013, v. 125, p. 299-321, First published on November 21, 2012, doi:10.1130/B30612.1
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:38956
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:18 Jun 2013 15:25
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:41

Repository Staff Only: item control page